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Thursday, March 11, 2010

In private, Biden went berserk

Laura Rozen publishes translated (I assume because there is no link) excerpts of a Shimon Shiffer piece in Thursday's Yediot Aharonot (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
While standing in front of the cameras, the U.S. vice president made an effort to smile at Binyamin Netanyahu even after having learned on Tuesday that the Interior Ministry had approved plans to build 1,600 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. But in closed conversations, Joe Biden took an entirely different tone. ...

People who heard what Biden said were stunned. “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden castigated his interlocutors. “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”

The vice president told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel’s actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism.
First of all, it's important to note that Yediot is Israel's second most Leftist newspaper (after Haaretz). The Israeli Left hates Netanyahu for reasons I discussed at length here. Anything written by almost any regular columnist for Yediot (the Hebrew side of YNet) or Haaretz that goes after Netanyahu has to be taken with a large grain of salt.

Did Biden say that? Well, maybe he did and maybe he didn't. But if he did say it, he is way out of line and his assertion is ridiculous. The Taliban is going to fight harder against American troops in AfPak because Israel is building apartments in Ramat Shlomo? Give me a break. Granted the timing of the announcement was about as personally embarrassing for Biden as it could have been, but to go from there to claiming that Israel building apartments in Jerusalem endangers American troops in AfPak and Iraq is beyond the pale.

Perhaps Shiffer (or the translation) is mistaken and what Biden was discussing attacks by Iran on American troops as a fallout from Israeli attacks on Iran's nuclear weapons program. That would at least be a legitimate concern, although given that Iran is an existential issue for Israel, I don't believe it will or ought to outweigh Israel's protection of its own safety against Iran.

Jennifer Rubin quotes the same three paragraphs that I quoted and adds:
It’s hard to fathom that the vice president would make such a claim. Aside from its nonsensical quality (Does the Taliban attack the U.S. because of apartment building in East Jerusalem?), it is precisely the sort of ill-conceived, bullying message that certainly must convince the Israelis not to place their trust in the American negotiators.
Yes, but I don't believe we need any more convincing on that score.

Another indication that Shiffer went off the deep end is that he refers to Biden as "the greatest friend of Israel ever to have been a member of the U.S. Senate." That's hyperbole at best and downright wrong at worst (would Israel's 'greatest friend' consistently vote against sanctioning Iran?). Even assuming Biden is a great friend of Israel, I see no way you could rank him ahead of Scoop Jackson or Hubert Humphrey, among others.


At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the same logic couldn't Israel complain that Abu Graib and indeed the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan the US undermine its relationship with the Palestinians?

This is completely flawed logic. Its not Israel's fault Muslims incorrectly perceive a relationship between some Jews living in Jerusalem and US foreign policy. Also, frankly, why should Israel care what its sworn enemies think anyway? Most Muslims will hate Jews regardless.


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